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Student story

Hugh Morrison-Thomas

20 July 2023

"I think the combination of art and science is primarily what led me to Speech Language Pathology..."


Bachelor of Speech and Language Pathology with Honours

Studying theory and practice for treating communications disorders has been highly inspirational for Hugh, as he works with clients on improving their lifestyle.

"I saw this as a great way to improve my own communication skills. The work is people-focused and various options are available for employment including working overseas," he says. "I think the combination of art and science is primarily what led me to studying degrees in Speech Language Pathology and Audiology. I enjoy interacting with people, but also want to use tools and techniques to investigate the causes and solutions to problems."

Hearing that UC's programmes covered an "intensive and thorough look" at a full range of communication disorders, Hugh took the opportunity to venture to the South Island. He came down to Christchurch at the start of 2015 to start his undergraduate degree in Speech Language Pathology.

"I see these courses as highly practical. They provide a wide range of clinical experiences in swallowing, neurological conditions, fluency, voice, speech sound and language disorders. This practical experience cements the learning gained in lectures. I do not feel I would have got this experience to the same extent if I had gone elsewhere.

"I meet with clients of all ages and conduct assessments with them to diagnose their disorder. Once I am aware of where the client's challenges are I provide compensatory and treatment strategies for managing their impairments. The role of a Speech Language Pathologist also focuses on modifying a client's daily activities, to increase their participation and improve quality of life."

After completing his undergraduate study Hugh moved back to his hometown to work as a Speech-Language Therapist in the Ministry of Education and also did voice therapy at Te Whatu Ora in the Wairarapa. The draw of Christchurch was too strong, however, and Hugh moved back down to study the Masters in Audiology a year later.

Having the ability to form close relationships with classmates and lecturers in the Communication Disorders Department has been one of his favourite aspects of his post-graduate study. The support he"s received he feels is the result of having such a small class group.

"I wanted to study audiology because I was interested in learning about the different skills needed in the role. For example the medical side, combined with a commercial sales aspect, as well as being involved in counselling and educating clients about their hearing loss.

"I've appreciated that in completing my thesis I"ve been able to combine learning from my undergraduate study and learning from other areas." Hugh has just finished writing his thesis, which is a systematic review of the literature relating to teaching speech-language pathology and audiology students clinical communication skills.

His advice to anyone considering either degrees is to meet people with communication disorders, and learn how significantly communication impairments can impact a person's life.

"Most importantly know why you want to do this course, because you will likely ask yourself this at some point in the future, and knowing why will help you stay on track. I enjoy meeting people with a wide range of life experiences, and learning from them. Building rapport with clients and seeing the effect that the work I do has on their communication."

Hugh is supplementing his studies with his passion for musical and theatrical performance. He plays the bagpipes and has been involved in the UC Choir - Consortia in his spare time.

He has also received Fellowship, Licentiate and Advanced Associate Diplomas in Teaching Speech and Drama through the New Zealand Speech Board. Currently, he teaches Speech and Drama part-time at a secondary school in Christchurch and would like to pair this with part-time work in Audiology in 2023.

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